Distance Running – A sport of peril and death defying stunts

Here’s a good one for ya.

I had a 16 mile run scheduled for my Saturday long run. Faster, but not hard. The forecast the night before called for at least an inch of snow by morning, but when I pulled back the blinds at 6:15 I was ecstatic to find only the lightest dusting kissing the pavement. I declared triumph and with a renewed excitement pulled on my colder weather clothes and headed out towards the local rail trail for a decent out and back. Everything was just fine.

I took a mile to ease myself into the run and although I was going to warmup for two solid, I decided to slowly pick up the pace after the first. I felt relatively smooth and pushed south on the Monon trail where I hit the first stone mile marker that signified the point at which I would turn around to start the long run North. Everything was just fine.

I moved up the Monon laying the first tracks in the snow besides a thin and swerving line of bike tire tracks. I looked into the lonely stretch of pavement and saw a cyclist moving far, far up ahead. I continued moving up the trail, but tempering my pace until I got into the second half of the run and knew I was good to pick it up. Slowly but surely I moved closer and closer to the guy on the bike swerving back and forth, when soon enough I had actually passed him. Everything was just fine.

I hit the Northern part of my run where a number of runners were putting in miles of their own, some solitary, some in groups. I passed Erin Nehus who just placed 14th in the National Cross race a few weeks back. I passed dog walkers. I passed joggers. I passed groups training for the mini, and soon enough I was at my turn around point. Everything was just fine.

I started the move back towards downtown, passing all those solitary and group runners again, gave another wave to Erin and was soon entering the lonely pavement that marks south of 38th street. My pace had picked up and I was feeling good, not laboring too hard, but certainly moving at a decent clip. Everything was just fine.

I hit the last stretch of pavement that brought me to my final turn around point that marked a 2 mile stretch back to my house to end the run. The turn around point is in a sort of no man’s land under a couple highway overpasses and nowhere near a neighborhood or trafficked streets. The only thing around are some barely used industrial buildings, empty soccer fields and endless lines of cars streaming about 40 feet overhead. Running toward the turn around, everything was just fine.

I saw where the stone mile marker sat, next to a section of pavement that went from covered in snow to not covered in snow. I hit that section not covered in snow, but unbeknownst to me covered in black ice, and shifted my body weight to begin my turn back towards home. And suddenly, before I knew it, LITERALLY BEFORE I KNEW IT….everything was not fine.

Without any recollection of what just happened I suddenly found myself staring at the bottom of the chain link fence that bordered one side of the trail. Of course a touch confused, I got my bearings and attempted to move, but found I was literally paralyzed for a good 3 seconds and seeing double. Suddenly, my vision focused again and my body released its death grip, allowing me full functioning. Still stunned and the entire world dead silent around me, I looked South on the Monon and saw no one. I turned my head North and saw the same. Nothing. I was completely alone. Everything was certainly NOT fine now.

Now, I’ve had a few spills where I’ve hit my head before, a couple of them while wearing my helmet and one where I wasn’t. When I tried to sit up from the wreck where I wasn’t wearing my helmet, the entire world spun violently and I went crashing back to the ground. So sitting there all alone on the Monon, I was quite concerned that a similar scenario might take place, but this time in the cold winter, at 8:00 am and no one in sight. I very cautiously stabled myself with my hands and pushed myself up into a sitting position. So far so good. I slowly stood up and found no problems with my equilibrium and actually quite well all around. I figured I’d just start my run back home and see if I could pick up the pace again, so starting off very slowly I felt no aches or sprains and began a light jog up the trail. Everything, although it seemed just fine, was still certainly NOT fine.

This is where it gets good.

I now had two miles left to get back home and like I said I began a slow jog North to see how my body would respond, but I still had concern about my physical state. I got to 12th street and debated turning left towards the neighborhoods so that I was around other people for the rest of the run home. Here’s the thing though, I have no memory of the point I started running to the point where I hit 12th street. I do remember then deciding to keep running up the Monon and back home. Then, the next thing I remember is being somewhere around 22nd street and 25th street COMPLETELY confused as to which street takes me back home. This is an area mind you that I know very well, that I run EVERY DAY. I know this area better than most people know their own homes, and not only could I not remember anything between 12th street and 22nd street, I also couldn’t remember which street actually took me home.

Then, get this, the NEXT thing I remember is being in the car with Michelle and looking over to see tears in her eyes while she drives me somewhere, of which I have no clue. I THEN remember pulling into a parking garage. I THEN remember walking towards a crosswalk. I THEN remember standing at the counter of the Wishard Emergency Room counter. I THEN remember sitting in a chair and holding my head when a nurse comes over with a wheelchair and pushes me back to a bed for some examination. Everything was, as you can surely tell by now, NOT fine.

Let’s rewind a bit. Apparently, after I successfully made it home that last two miles of which I have NO recollection, I walked into my house and exclaimed outloud, “Michelle, I think we have a problem. I can’t remember the last part of my run. I can’t remember how I got here. I don’t know what happened. Maybe I fell or something. Feel my head. I think I have a bump or something.”

And then I began repeating that over and over. Michelle felt my head to find quite a large bump and although she acknowledged the bump, I would continue to exclaim, “Michelle! Feel my head! I think I have a huge bump. I think I might have fallen.” at which point she would feel my head. And then immediately after I would again say, “Michelle! Feel my head! I think I have a huge bump. I think I might have fallen!” or something to that effect….I don’t know, I don’t remember any of this. It was at this point she made the rightful decision to put my jibberish speaking ass in the car and take me to the emergency room.

So there I sat in the hospital bed retaining more and more of my faculties, but still trying to make sense of what was going on. I still had my running tights and shoes on, so that made sense. I seemed to have a headache. And honestly, I still can’t remember at what point I realized what had happened and how I got there, but ever so slowly I came to terms with what was going on. A nice nurse came over and gave me two ibuprofen and a large nausea pill, which I desperately needed as I was about to puke real bad, but I barely remember even taking them. I was then put back in the wheelchair and pushed into a Cat Scan room where I laid on a table and promptly fell asleep. I remember having a conversation with the lady who was zapping my brain and I remember it being nice and humorous, but I can’t remember a single word of it or what she looked like. It’s funny to think how conscious I was at that point, but even now realize I was still way out of it.

I was then wheeled back to my hospital bed and left to just hang out for awhile. Michelle popped in for a bit to talk to me and laugh when I asked for a book to read or pretty pictures to look at, finding it quite hilarious that I would try to actually do something considering the state I was in. She ended up leaving to take care of Noah and drop him off at a relatives and I waited to hear back from the nurse and be told if I could leave or get brain surgery. Soon enough, considering this was Wishard, the nurse came back, told me everything was JUST FINE and I could leave as soon as the paper work was finished up.

Surprisingly, the paper work was completed and the doc walked over to send me home, but before he did Michelle asked him if it was ok if I ran the next day….prompting him to say “Oh HELL NO!”, but much to her dismay this doctor had something of a callous demeanor and simply stated, “Oh sure. If he has no reoccuring problems today, he should be fine.” She was not happy with this answer. I was….and I ran 10 concussion-free miles today. Oh yeah, that was the specific diagnosis, a full on concussion which I suffered when I hit that ice and most likely went airborne, hitting my head not once, but twice on the pavement. I’ve got two gnarly bumps to prove it.

So, granted, concussions aren’t really fun, but I can’t help but appreciate the excitement it added to the day. And besides, hitting your head is crazy!….I mean, the craziest shit happens. I’m still completely dumbfounded and fascinated that I will never recover the memory of running? jogging? walking? the full two miles back to my house because my brain was still blocking out the trauma of smashing my head on the ground. I mean, I feel like I was some sort of zombie figure for those two miles and beyond, but I wasn’t simply walking home on auto-pilot. I HAD to be in control of my capacities, I mean, I crossed a number of heavily-trafficked streets and managed to not get plowed over. I had to have known where I was going and stopped for cars and all that, just like normal, but I simply wasn’t retaining any of that process, so to my currently conscious state it seems like it never happened. And that’s annoying, because I want to know what I was thinking. Was I scared? Was I in a lot of pain? Was I pissed that I wasn’t running home? Was I actually running home? Did I talk to anyone on the way? I wish I could talk to that zombie..er, person now.

Regardless, what’s done is done. In the end I only got a couple sizeable lumps on my head, a series of incredibly confusing aches and pains throughout my body. No newfound sensory traits. No mental porthole to the secrets of the universe. No superpowers. Hell, I probably LOST some of my mental abilities if anything, if I should believe what others have told me.

The important thing is that I still got out to run 10 miles today, figuring it would be better to keep my body in its routine and stay loose than sit around and let the trauma set in, constricting my muscles to stone.

So yeah, If you ever thought running was lame. If you ever thought running was for middle-aged geezers chasing after health. If you ever thought running was boring. Well….you were obviously doing it wrong. Running is the sport of peril and death defying stunts. Running is staring death in the face and laughing at its bad complexion. Running is the sport of mad(wo)men and adrenaline junkies. Running is for those who smash their heads into the ground and laugh at the thought of taking the next day easy. Don’t you forget it.

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11 responses to “Distance Running – A sport of peril and death defying stunts

  1. Shite! Glad you’re ok mate!

    • Thanks friend…all seems to be well, aside from general soreness and an extremely sore spot near my buttocks. I’m guessing that is where I took the brunt of the fall. The worst is yet to come though…the hospital bill.

  2. I’m really glad you’re okay. I hit my head badly last year and lost quite a bit of reasoning and creative functions. I was scared and wondered if it would be that way forever.

    Yet another reason why you’re an elite runner and I’m not. I understand your drive, but I’d be hiding out listening to quiet music all Sunday…

    In other news, >40F is returning to us! I can’t tell you how overjoyed I am to see some of my longer running stomps opening up to actual ground, pavement, chip&seal, etc!

    Greg

    • Hey Greg,

      Yeah, I’m told the more I go unconscious, the more I lose abilities….so I’d rather not hit my head anymore.

      And yes…it seems the weather is staying in the 30’s and 40’s now, which is a huge relief. That’s shorts weather! Enjoy it in case we relapse into Winter again.

  3. careful buddy! glad you are not permanently damaged…scary though…

    • Thanks for the concern…and yes, scary. If I start thinking about the fall out on a run I get a little shaky and have to divert my thoughts. But yeah, everything is a-ok now.

  4. Glad to hear you’re OK. If you would slow down like the rest of us, you would not have issues slipping…

    Do you wear a Road ID? After I took a hard fall last year and ended up in the ER with some nice facial lacerations, I ordered one the next day.

    • Thanks Ben…I don’t have a Road ID, cause I’d like to think I’m not THAT accident prone….then again, the evidence says otherwise.

  5. Kip,

    Time to start wearing a helmet when you run.

    I seem to remember a time when you fell off your bike and ground your face into pavement. Was that you or someone else I’m thinking of?

    BTW, glad you made it home okay.

    • Sorry, disregard that last message, I thought I was leaving a comment for kipwinger.

      I suppose this “Scott” character hijacked this blog?

    • Yeah, Scott hijacks this blog when he’s at work. Regardless…that WAS me that turned the left side of my face into frickin ground meat. I really regret not having a photo of that scab. That was really unbelievable. But yeah, I live on the edge!!!

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